Computer Science Classes Innovate

New department boasts lengthy waitlist


Oscar Walsh

Burton states that she was first drawn to computer science “to practice problem solving in a creative way; looking at things and figuring out how they fit together.”

Zoey Ueland, Managing Editor

Since 2013, Blake has welcomed computer science as a course integral to students’ learning. However, for much of the time it has been on the back-burnerstat relative to other STEM courses, Department Chair Madeline Burton ‘07 reflects that when she went to Blake, “I didn’t know that computer science existed.” But, how times have changed. Now, Sarah Hasday-Erbsen ‘24 exclaims, “[Ap Computer Science Principles] is a very selective class, everyone wants to be in it.”

This past year Burton created, and subsequently became the head of, the computer science department. Sydney Dorvill ‘23 a student in AP Computer Science Principles explains, “It’s probably one of my favorite classes if not my favorite one. Ms. Burtons great, she’s super smart, has a bunch of degrees and she does a really good job of teaching us.” 

Burton’s inspiration for the department came from her own educational experience both at Blake and later during college, “One of the things that I think is really important about the high school education is the opportunity to explore and become curious and find out more about things you look and things you’re curious about and that just felt like an opportunity that was missing for students.”

Currently, five classes are offered at the Upper school: Intro to Computer Science, AP Computer Science Principles, Intro to Computer Programming, AP Java, and Software Design. The introduction classes are offered one semester each and Burton alternates between teaching the two APs year by year to give students a broader learning experience. Software Design prompts students to collaborate on one project throughout the year. Burton notes that the class urges students to, “design something for someone for some purpose so that you’re thinking about who is the user, what empathy do I have for those people, why do people want what I’m creating?” Past examples have included collaboration with The Bachman Museum.

Computer science revolves around far more than code, Hasday-Erbsen explains, “the [New York Times] doesn’t make your money, actually, selling subscriptions, they make it selling data…I think the class is so important just so you understand how your data gets sold because we’re in the digital age.” As a whole, the department branches STEM with creative arts, an emphasis on problem solving and, of course, the technology of the future.